"Dragon Ball Z" is an anime from the 'martial arts' genre that came out in Japan back in the 1980's and has since become a global phenomenon.
The hero of the show is Goku. (The guy on the cloud in the picture above.) We follow the adventures of Goku and his friends (the Z Warriors) as they battle the forces of evil in the universe.
The show features lots of fighting action, some comedic relief, complex story arcs, and offers great emotional pay offs for its viewers.
I was thinking about the Cell Saga the other day, and I realized that it is probably an allegory about sports gambling in America.
The Cell Saga is, in my opinion, the best DBZ saga, and it was so good that it really could have served as the show's series finale. Kind of how Terminator 2 was the perfect ending for that franchise, but it made so much money that they couldn't leave it alone.
Cell is a reptilian sort of guy who has DNA from all of the greatest fighters in the universe. Because of this he can use the attacks and abilities of those characters.
The Saga in Question
The major DBZ sagas are many episodes long (30-40ish) so I'm just going to highlight the best examples of allegory throughout this story arc.
I believe Cell represents a Casino that offers full scale legalized sports betting for all of America. As you probably already know, sports betting in America is only legal in Las Vegas. You can make certain kinds of NFL bets in Delaware, but it's so watered down I don't even count that. You can make bets with some shady websites that are based off shore, but their odds are worse than the Vegas odds because they know they're the only internet outlet for Americans so far. They're also technically illegal. No thanks.
Cell shows up from the future by way of time machine. Allegorically I believe he's coming from a future where full scale sports betting is now legal across America. Cell's main goal is to absorb energy from regular people as well as from two androids in particular. Once he absorbs enough energy he'll be able to evolve into his other more powerful forms and destroy the universe etc. (classic stuff)
When Cell absorbs energy from the masses of regular people he kills (don't worry they're revived later), that represents a Casino gaining the approval of the city they want to build in. Eventually Cell gets his hands (or rather, tail) on the boy Android. This dramatically increases Cell's power and allegorically represents the huge chunks of money a Casino makes off the people that lose money on table games and slots.
Later, Cell fights a good guy named Tien. Tien can't match Cell's power, but he does manage to stall him long enough to allow for the girl Android's escape. Tien represents the US Government and the girl Android represents full scale legalized sports betting. This battle represents the idea that the US Government can delay full scale legalized sports betting in America, but they can't stop it forever.
Later on Cell finally finds and absorbs the girl Android. This really puts him over the top and unlocks his "Perfect" form. A good guy named Vegeta actually could have killed Cell (easily) and prevented this, but because of Vegeta's perennial hubris, he lets Cell evolve. Vegeta is curious to see just how powerful Cell will become.
Vegeta's son Trunks was warning him against this foolishness the entire time. Trunks represents the contingent of people that believe fully legalized sports gambling would be terrible for the moral fiber of America and dangerous for our economic well being. When Vegeta lets Cell evolve this represents a law being passed that would legalize full scale sports betting across America. Vegeta (representing legislators) thinks he'll still be able to control Cell (the casino) even after Cell evolves into his perfect form (gets sports betting.)
So the huge power boost Cell experiences when he absorbs the girl Android represents the enormous windfall that the Casinos will finally be getting when the laws change and they can all offer legal sports gambling.
Vegeta fights the new "perfect" Cell and at first, it looks like Vegeta has things under control. He even manages to blow off Cell's arm at one point.
But Cell, even though he is stunned at first, grows his arm back in like a minute. Vegeta's attack represents the kind of day in which a Casino loses a lot of money to the gamblers. The fact that Cell grows his arm back without any major problem represents the idea that no matter what, the house always wins. Cells goes on to knock Vegeta out.
Later on Cell announces he will hold a fighting tournament. Cell is of course cocky as all get out and believes he will win no problem. This tournament represents a Casino's grand opening. The Z Warriors all show up for the fight but they know that only 2 or 3 of them are strong enough to hang with Cell. In this case the Z Warriors represent the early adopters; the first group of people who will try sports betting once it is fully legalized in America. The Z Warriors who actually go on to fight with Cell represent the "wise guys". That's a term for the sports gamblers who are so good they can actually make a living at it.
The fact that those Z Warriors are capable of hanging with Cell represents the idea that sports betting is the one form of betting where you can use your knowledge of the past to your advantage. Black Jack used to be that way, because the deck had a "memory" so to speak, but Casinos do all sorts of things to take that away now. Now sports betting is the only game with a "memory."
The Z Warriors have been training in the martial arts their entire lives, so even though Cell is a very new enemy on the scene, a fight is a fight, and they can use the knowledge they've gained about fighting to successfully battle against him.
So first, Goku has an epic fight with Cell. They battle, Cell is blown in half, grows his torso back, and soon after this Goku has to retire from the fight.
Goku then nominates his young son Gohan to fight next. Everyone is surprised by this, and then even more surprised when they see how powerful Gohan has become.
Gohan is kicking Cell's butt big time, but then he gets cocky. Gohan reaches a point where he can easily kill Cell, but he doesn't. He wants to prolong Cell's suffering.
This represents a gambler who is "on fire". Gohan is winning a lot of bets in a row and starts thinking he can't lose, so he presses his luck. But remember, the house always wins.
Cell takes the opening Gohan gives him. Cell initiates his self destruct sequence. Gohan is crushed as he realizes he just screwed the planet Earth out of existence. (whoops) Cell's self destruct represents the idea of losing big money when a game you thought was a sure thing blows up in your face. Like if the New England Patriots played a game at home and lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars by 30 points.
Goku steps in and teleports Cell and himself onto another planet (he can do that). Cell explodes. Goku saves the Earth but dies in the process. This represents a loved one paying off your gambling debts for you and bankrupting themselves in the process. Gohan feels super guilty.
Cell is able to reform and return to Earth because (as he explains) as long as he has at least 1 cell left, he can always come back. (Worse than Michael Myers from "Halloween.") The house always wins.
Cell starts kicking ass again and Gohan's arm gets broken. Soon after, Cell and Gohan engage in one final fireball battle that keeps going back and forth like a game of tug of war. (so epic) This represents Gohan the gambler trying to win some of his money back. If he can somehow defeat Cell, his Dad Goku will still be dead, but the Earth will be saved. Gohan wouldn't break even, but he'd be much better off than he is right now. Gohan can't even "cut his losses" and leave the casino right now because to do that would mean walking away from the fight and dying. It's like he needs to win back enough money to pay the rent that's due tomorrow.
The other Z Warriors are depressed as hell, but eventually they try to chip in and shoot their own fireballs at Cell. Cell is too powerful to be damaged by this. This represents the idea of your friends having an intervention for your gambling addiction. They try to save you from your own mistakes, but they can't.
Just when it looks like Cell is going to overwhelm and kill (bankrupt) Gohan with his enormous fireball, another fireball nails Cell from above. Cell looks up in total surprise and sees Vegeta floating there in the sky. Vegeta couldn't hang with Cell but here he has hurt Cell enough to throw him off his game for a moment.
Vegeta's disruptive final fireball represents a team like the 2012-2013 Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens were a pretty big underdog in the final 3 rounds of the playoffs that year. They won all 3 of those games and won the Super Bowl in the process. When you bet on an underdog and they win, you are getting great value for your money. A good team that keeps winning while still being listed as an underdog puts a casino (Cell) in a vulnerable position. A situation like that is a gambler's best chance to bet big and beat the house.
Goku (via telepathic link) tells Gohan this is his big chance (bet all your money). Cell won't remain stunned for long. Gohan summons his final surge of energy and annihilates Cell, disintegrating him on the atomic level. (no coming back this time.) The fact that Cell is now truly destroyed represents the idea that Gohan has won a lot of his money back and will be leaving the casino for good.
Gohan bet big one last time and it paid off. His gambling has still done a lot of damage (his Dad is dead), but he didn't go bankrupt (Earth wasn't destroyed.)
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